A little exercise that will make a big difference in your life.
As you think back over the past year, how would you measure your progress in different areas of your life? Are you happy with who you’ve become and what you’ve accomplished?
The answer to that question will largely depend on whether you were intentional about your personal growth over the past year. If you set goals and put systems in place to achieve them, the chances are much greater that you grew as a person last year. If you didn’t grow very much, chances are that it’s because you weren’t intentional about your growth.
Around this time of year, you’ll find an almost endless number of systems and exercises to help you make the coming year your best one ever. It doesn’t really matter what system you use. It’s all about having some type of system to evaluate the previous year and think about what you want to accomplish during the next year.
As the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” A Personal Growth Plan will not only help you aim at what’s most important to you, it will also give you a much better chance of hitting it.
There are two parts to putting together a Personal Growth Plan, and you should be able to complete the exercise in less than a couple of hours.
Part 1: Evaluation of the Past Year
Take 1-2 pages and evaluate your growth, habits, and attitudes in the following areas. (If you keep a journal, I’d recommend consulting your thoughts and reflections from the past year.)
1. Body: Are you happy with the state of your body? Your weight? Appearance? Why or why not? What things did you do over the past year that made a positive or negative difference?
2. Mind: How do you feel about your intellectual development? Was there a skill you would have liked to learn but didn’t? Was there a new skill you acquired that has been helpful?
3. Spirit: How would you evaluate your spiritual development over the last year? (The answers to this question can be radically different depending on your faith tradition, or possibly no specific faith, so it’s intentionally vague.)
4. Relationships: Are you happy with the current state of your relationships? This includes spouse or significant other, children, friends, relatives, mentors, colleagues, and others who are important to you.
5. Issues: Is there any specific issue, habit, or even addiction that has held you back from reaching your potential this past year?
Part 2: Planning for the Coming Year
Take 1-2 pages and chart a course for development in these areas.
1. Body: How can I have better health in the coming year? Is there a diet or exercise plan I should consider? How is my physical health (or lack thereof) helping or hurting me?
2. Mind: What is my plan for growing intellectually? What are 2-3 books I plan to read to spur my thinking in the coming year? What is my schedule for accomplishing this? Are there any courses, conferences, or other learning opportunities that will spur my growth?
3. Spirit: What is my plan for growing regularly in my spiritual life? (Take into account any resources or people that can help.)
4. Relationships: What improvements would I like to see in my relationships with my spouse or significant other, children, friends, relatives, colleagues, mentors, and others who are important to me? What actions can I take to make it happen?
5. Issues: What is the next step in dealing with the one issue or struggle that is holding me back? What action do I need to take to begin seeing real change in this area?
6. The ONE THING: What is the one thing I can change in my life over the next year that would help me the most?
A Few Guidelines
Here are several guidelines to help you put together a Personal Growth Plan that will help you make this next year the best one ever:
1. Find a quiet place with no distractions.
2. Be honest with yourself. It doesn’t do any good to skirt over tough issues or things you’d rather avoid.
3. Be realistic. Don’t set goals you will never reach.
4. Ask friends to help you evaluate yourself. We do much better in life when we involve other people in our growth process.
5. Remember, the point of this exercise is not to reflect endlessly on the failures and “what-ifs” of the past year. You can’t change any of that, so don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. The point of this exercise is to help you take ACTION to change your life in the coming year.
I find that a Personal Growth Plan works best when you use it alongside some type of goal-setting tool. Putting together a Personal Growth Plan is as much about reflection as it is about planning. These questions are designed to get you thinking about your life and what you want out of it over the next year. When you combine it with strategies for setting and achieving specific goals, it can be a powerful catalyst for life change.
Finally, do what works for you. Take these questions and add to them, or skip the ones that don’t seem helpful to you. Everyone approaches growth a little differently, and you should never feel shackled by a system. Ultimately, any plan for growth or setting goals has to be personalized to your needs.
Here’s to making this next year the best year of your life!
Photo: Flickr/Yun Huang Yong
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